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Utterly Unbiased Top 25: West Coast Bias Edition

IN OUR HASTE to crown the SEC West as the Greatest Conglomeration of College Football Teams Ever, have we done a disservice to the Pac-12 South?

If you haven’t noticed, five of the six teams in that division have six or more wins. Arizona State heads up the group, trailed by USC, UCLA, Arizona and Utah. All five of these teams are ranked in this week’s edition of the Utterly Unbiased Top 25.

The rankings are getting more and more fun to decipher as the weeks advance. Wins and losses mount, the importance of those wins and losses shift and crazy things happen to our rankings. Here at the UU Top 25 Headquarters, we suss out the one-, two- and three-loss teams with a system that individually ranks each team’s best win, each team’s second-best win and their loss(es).

For example, the best win among the teams considered this week (not counting unbeaten Mississippi State and Florida State, who are the undisputed Nos. 1 and 2) is a virtual tie between Auburn’s win at Kansas State and Arizona’s win at Oregon. Baylor’s win at home against TCU is a third.

Among the second-best wins? Again, very difficult to argue with Auburn, who posted victories against Ole Miss and LSU, pick either one or take them together and you have a terrific resume.

Who has the best loss, you ask? Again, it’s Auburn, who lost at top-ranked Mississippi State. So there you have it. Auburn is our quite clear No. 3 team.

But an interesting thing happened this week as we tallied up the resumes. Two-loss UCLA exploded up the ranks, climbing a whopping 16 spots to No. 6. I know, right?

This is what we saw in UCLA: Gritty wins at Arizona State and Arizona were top-five wins on our “best” and “second-best” wins ranking. The two losses came against Oregon and Utah, giving the Bruins the 17th-best loss resume behind the 13 one-loss teams in consideration and two-loss squads LSU, Ole Miss, Oklahoma and Clemson.

Taken together, that body of work edged out that of Kansas State (paltry first- and second-best win rankings among the one-loss teams), Arizona State (super second-best win, top-10 loss) and LSU (closely models UCLA across the board).

If you’re looking for our biggest losers, Alabama probably qualifies, dropping six spots to 12th in our view. Why? The loss at Ole Miss is definitely a quality loss. Can’t argue with that. But have you taken a close look at Alabama’s wins? There’s the neutral site win against West Virginia, which in a vacuum is nice but as a best win rated 17th among the 30 teams we considered for Nos. 3-25 this week. Second-best win? You have to call it Florida, considering the disintegration of Texas A&M. Florida had that nice win this past weekend, but the Gators are fairly pedestrian and we could only see fit to rank that second-best win 11th among the 30 in consideration.

Things can change and change rapidly. While we do not take into account margin of victory (sorry Ohio State) or when a team defeats another team (sorry to all of those crews who are on six- and seven-game win streaks), we believe enough reward/punishment is doled out by what all teams do as the season progresses. To use Ohio State once more — the loss to Virginia Tech has gone from being vexing to downright awful as the Hokies fell apart.

Marshall just missed the rankings this week and that was sort of sad to see. The Thundering Herd have primarily been crushing their foes, but … wow … what a wretched collection. All Marshall can do is take care of business against whomever they face, but that’s just not going to be good enough.

Missouri’s back. We assume that means the Tigers will lose this week. They are headed to Texas A&M, where a Tigers victory would improve their standing while further damaging Alabama, harm that can be mitigated quite nicely by a Tide victory against LSU this weekend.

On to the rankings:

1. MISSISSIPPI STATE (8-0) … Defeated Arkansas 17-10/No change

2. FLORIDA STATE (8-0) … Won at Louisville 42-31/No change

3. AUBURN (7-1) … Won at Ole Miss 35-31/No change

4. OREGON (8-1) … Defeated Stanford 45-16/Up one spot

5. TCU (7-1) … Won at West Virginia 31-30/Up two spots

If the playoffs began today, going by these rankings, the possibility of a Auburn-Mississippi State rematch would be possible in the national championship game. Wouldn’t that be annoying if we went through all this new playoff nonsense and ended up with the type of title game the playoff system was invented to prevent in the wake of the miserable Alabama-LSU title tilt? It’s actually easier to envision Mississippi State falling out of this top four than any of the other teams, given the remaining schedules. TCU could make things quite fun by winning out in the Big 12.

6. UCLA (7-2) … Defeated Arizona 17-7/Up 16 spots

7. KANSAS STATE (7-1) … Defeated Oklahoma State 48-14/Up three spots

8. ARIZONA STATE (7-1) … Defeated Utah 19-16/Up six spots

9. LSU (7-2) … Did not play/Down one spot

10. OLE MISS (7-2) … Lost to Auburn 35-31/Down six spots

Let’s talk a little Kansas State here. The Wildcats’ overall resume is merely OK, in comparison with the other top-10 teams here. Though they lack a truly defining victory (winning at Oklahoma is good, but not great), they can do more to improve themselves than any other team in the nation. With games remaining at TCU, at West Virginia and at Baylor, Kansas State could argue a place in the playoffs. Then again, KSU could lose all three and we could be debating whether it should still be ranked.

11. BAYLOR (7-1) … Defeated Kansas 60-14/Down two spots

12. ALABAMA (7-1) … Did not play/Down six spots

13. MICHIGAN STATE (7-1) … Did not play/No change

14. UTAH (6-2) … Lost at Arizona State 19-16/Up one spot

15. WEST VIRGINIA (6-3) … Lost to TCU 31-30/Down three spots

Baylor defeated TCU and lost at West Virginia. Both ranked highly in our system. But then comes the rest of Baylor’s slate. What’s the next best win? Certainly not this week’s romp against Kansas, though it was surprisingly close. We’ll go with the win against a truly mediocre Texas. Baylor needs to prove its mettle this week at Oklahoma, then again when it plays host to Kansas State. Utah will be prepared to play spoiler when Oregon visits this weekend.

16. GEORGIA (6-2) … Lost to Florida 38-20/Down five spots

17. ARIZONA (7-2) … Lost at UCLA 17-7/Down one spot

18. NOTRE DAME (7-1) … Won at Navy 49-39/No change

19. NEBRASKA (8-1) … Defeated Purdue 35-14/Down two spots

20. CLEMSON (6-2) … Did not play/Up one spot

Oh, the plights of Notre Dame and Nebraska, two teams with superb losses (ND at Florida State, Nebraska at Michigan State) but ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to show for themselves in the win column, unless you think the Irish hanging on against Stanford or Nebraska beating visiting Miami are the schizz. How about Notre Dame’s second-best win? Any guesses? We drew a blank and went with this weekend’s win against Navy. Otherwise, we were staring at North Carolina or Syracuse. Yuck. Nebraska has a win against Rutgers, which is nice somewhere, we suppose.

21. DUKE (7-1) … Won at Pittsburgh 51-48/Up three spots

22. OHIO STATE (7-1) … Defeated Illinois 55-14/Down three spots

23. OKLAHOMA (6-2) … Defeated Iowa State 59-14/Down three spots

24. MISSOURI (7-2) … Defeated Kentucky 20-10/Not ranked

25. USC (6-3) … Won at Washington State 44-17/Not ranked

We definitely suspect Ohio State to be much better than their current ranking, but the Big Ten is doing the Buckeyes no favors while that home loss to the Hokies is like an anchor around their necks. Beat Michigan State this weekend, though and the Buckeyes likely become the biggest movers on next week’s board.

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